Ah, December 23rd. There's no day quite like the day before the day before Christmas, where the most organized of the lazy shoppers get the jump on the Dec. 24th crowd. For those of you still looking for gifts for that special fangirl or boy, consider a game! For those of you who are looking to expand your game horizons, here's my primer on some recent games you should be aware of, categorized by games I am assuming you are aware of. Oh, you're done with your shopping? Lucky for you, this guide also works for New Years Day, Valentine's Day, Veterans Day, and even Buy-For-Yourself Day. Enjoy...after the jump!
Every game with an asterisk offers a free demo. Luck you...er...your friend! Try before you buy!
The Portal Lover
Portal was an essentially flawless new experience in action-puzzle gaming. So what game do you give that Portal fanatic in your life? Try some of these brain-tickling gems for the thinking gamer...
Braid*(XBox 360) - A surprisingly thought-provoking retelling of the classic Mario-style, mixed in with the power of time manipulation. It's the top-rated XBox Live Arcade game ever.
Echochrome*(PS3, PSP) - Like playing an Escher painting. Gloriously minimalist in its art and music.
The Guitar Hero
Your options for music games have exploded from the once-simple "Guitar Hero or Guitar Hero 2?" decision. Of course, you have your Rock Band, Rock Band 2, and Guitar Hero World Tour, but perhaps your gift-recipient wants to put the plastic axe down? Try one of these...
Patapon*(PSP) - A tribe of cyclops warriors attempt to regain their former glory, and you are there god, communicating through drum patterns. Infectious.
Audiosurf*(PC) - It's like Tron fused with your music collection. Load any song in your library into the game and play it as an original level!
The Final Fantasy Fanatic
Life is hard for a Final Fantasy player; you only get a major new Final Fantasy every few years. Fortunately, it has been a pretty good year for Role Playing Gamers, if they are willing to branch out...
Mass Effect (PC, XBox 360) - Technically, this game was released last year, but it still deserves some love. An RPG set in a Star Trek-ish universe. Don't be frightened by the action, shooter gameplay. There's plenty of familiar stat upgrading and side quests to make you feel right at home.
Fallout 3 (PC, PS3, XBox 360) - More shooting here, but in a post-apocalyptic Washington DC stuck in a 1950's aesthetic.
Chrono Trigger (DS) - I'm cheating again. This is an old SNES classic, but it was just re-released for the DS! Plus, it's a Squaresoft (Final Fantasy developer) game. Be prepared. The look and sound are thoroughly retro.
Valkyria Chronicles*(PS3) - Much closer to the Final Fantasy player's heart. A true epic Japanese RPG with a unique art style and strategic gameplay.
The Lego Gamer
The Lego series from Traveler's Tales has produced a slew of cutesy remakes of classics - Lego Star Wars, Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Batman - but if this is growing stale for the gamer who likes casual, stress-free play, try these...
LittleBigPlanet (PS3) - On the surface, a fun, relaxing, four-player platforming adventure with cute bean-bag characters. When you get tired of the basics, though, there are powerful tools for creating your own levels and machines, as well as a whole online community of others' levels.
The Katamari series*(iPhone, PS2, PSP, XBox 360) - Described by many as the happiest game you'll ever play. Essentially, you just roll a ball around and roll up objects, growing from the size of a paperclip to rolling up entire planets. With an adorable, kooky style and a catchy soundtrack, it's, simply-put, smiles in a box.
The Halo Junkie
Your friend plays Halo... a lot. If he/she isn't playing Halo 3, first get him/her up to speed. Halo 3 is the best in the series and really lives up to the hype. However, if you're sick of the addiction, try to wean your friend onto one of these shooters...
Far Cry 2 (PC, PS3, XBox 360) - A huge open world shooter. Perhaps not revolutionary, but the gorgeous world is something to be experienced.
Left 4 Dead (PC, XBox 360) - Personally, I hate zombies, so I can't go near this game. However, it's essentially a zombie team-survival situation generator. Endless replayability with a team of four friends online.